If I think of him as an addict, then it becomes clearer and I can let it go; I can let him go, a little bit more, a little bit more . . . .
The first time I experienced him having a relapse, I saw it coming. I saw it coming from miles and weeks away. I am, occasionally, a very regular keeper of a journal. I was mulling over his issues in my journal (OK, obsessing), and I wrote: He is going to drink. If I was writing in my journal that he was going to drink, how much stronger was it in his mind? I didn’t even know all that much about alcoholism, but I could see his issues colliding and compounding and the easy answer was there. A straw cropped up and the camel’s back broke. A hurtful email arrived. He got it on a Friday night and shared it with me over the phone, and I spent the whole weekend fretting about it. I did. What did this have to do with me? I worried. I hoped he was talking to his sponsor, I hoped he was talking to someone. He sure wasn’t talking to me. And there I was, waiting by the phone. Frustrated with myself, but doing it anyway. Damn it. The positive for me was that I wrote a poem. I decided that if I was going to sit and wait for a phone call that I might as well write something. And I did. And I liked it. A lot. It was Bird in a Box. I think now that it might be a crap name for my blog, but at the time I was really enamored with the poem. I made something out of frustration. I made something in spite of being frustrated.
OK, so he didn’t call me all weekend. I knew he was in trouble. He sent me a brief message late Friday or early Saturday morning that he wanted to talk, but he never called, messaged, nothing after that.
He called me Monday night. He seemed a little odd, not the warm soul I knew, but someone more petty, more paranoid. He was living with family members. When they came home, all hell broke loose. Our phone call was interrupted. He called me back later to confess that he had been busted drinking in a house where there was zero-tolerance. It was surreal. I was on the phone with someone I felt I knew well, yet had never met, and suddenly felt I didn’t know at all. I knew that a relapse was a possibility, but from 1,000 miles away, it felt like, well, 1,000 miles away. He could have kept it from me. He could have been drinking all along. How would I have known?
What I did know was my reaction. I saw myself being sucked into this drama; spending whole weekends, lifetimes, waiting and worrying. And for what? I knew why we weren’t together: his addiction would eat me alive. I couldn’t help but be sucked into that vortex, because that was my nature, that was my idea of love. And it would do me no good. I gave it a couple days of thought and then told him straight up: We can’t be together because your drinking problem would swallow me whole. I was shaking, but I had the courage to speak my mind. It felt good.
It’s three years on, now, and I’m still trying to make the break. I don’t know why it is so hard. I didn’t let go, for one thing. I didn’t step away from that vortex. I kept hanging on, hoping for something. A year later I went to visit him. We had made a little break from each other after the public relapse (private ones had occurred prior). He re-committed himself to AA and staying sober and stopped talking to me. After a year and a half of regular contact, it hurt. I tried to bargain with God. “We can be friends!” “I know how to do this.” “I’m not going to get sucked in. I know my boundaries, how to stay safe.” But, no dice: I got to live in my own life, and he, in his. But my life was in turmoil. In the space of two years, my long-term boyfriend left me, my mother died (my father had passed two years prior), both my dogs died and I was on the edge of losing my job. I felt as though everything was flowing out and away from me.
In a therapy session, I had a vision of flying over mountains and feeling wonderfully free.
On a moonlit walk, it occurred to me that I could fly and go see him in the mountains.
I could just ask. What would be the harm in asking? I wanted some kind of comfort in my life. I felt so lonely and abandoned. I had made this friend and shared all sorts of deep confidences with him. Couldn’t I just go see him once?
I thought I was following The Four Agreements: Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want. I sent out my request: Dear _____, Can I come see you?
Ah, but what did I really want? My mind was muddled.
He called me. After a few months of silence, I heard his voice. He was amenable to me coming to visit. He sounded excited. There were details. He wasn’t sure where he was going to be living, but he had a new job and things were going well. We could work it out. We could have fun. I felt my heart as I got off the phone. I was excited. I had forgotten the way his voice made me feel. Oh, dear. I was in trouble. I didn’t just want to go see a friend and get a hug and a “there, there.” I felt my heart saying, “boom shaka laka.” I wanted Love.